These Kinds of Things Don’t Just Happen

February 14, 2021 The Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B)

The tie in between today’s readings: Christ the Healer

Psalm 32:1-5;11, Leviticus 13:1-2;44-46, 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1, Mark 1:40-45

I hope this never happens to you, but odds are you probably know someone. It’s common enough. A symptom, a pain, a cough, whatever, it’s persistent despite routine remedies. Could something be really wrong?  Tests are ordered. Time drags on and the mind swirls with fear and denial. Then, the call… “Please come in.” The drive! The wait! The face to face sit down. Finally, with the drone of the hospital in the background, the Specialist says, “I’m sorry, it’s…” You fill in the blank. In the ancient Jewish world, it would be leprosy. Our reading in Leviticus 13:1-2 describes the priestly duty in diagnosing this scourge of a disease. Leviticus 13:44-46 prescribes the remedy; there is none. The unfortunate person must tear his clothes, uncover his head, and with a cloth over his face warn everyone to stay away by shouting, “Unclean! Unclean!” He must live away from society with other pariahs who share his condition. Family and friends will need leave provisions at a distance, lest he starve. His entire future is wrapped up in the long-drawn-out progression of the disease: nerve destruction, loss of fingers and toes, paralysis, blindness, and secondary infections. He is truly a dead man walking.

One day, a dead man walks up to Jesus. We read about it in today’s gospel, Mark 1:40-45. He bows and begs, “If You are willing, You can heal me.” Our compassionate Lord instantly cleanses him with a touch. Probably the first touch from another human being that he has felt in years. Jesus sternly, seriously, and soberly warns him not to tell anyone what happened. (More about that later.) He then sends the astonished and grateful man to the priest to fulfill the requirements of the Law for this cleansing. What? Why? There are no other healings in scripture that require a ceremonial ritual. You can make the blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame walk…you can even raise the dead out of their coffin and besides a “Glory be” and a “Praise God,” they can all go straight home, all except for the case of leprosy. That’s because, besides being a real and physical disease, the Bible employs it as a strong metaphor for a person’s sinful condition. Healing from leprosy is tantamount to being cleansed from sin. I can imagine that when the surprised priest got wind of what this man was asking for, he had to go back and revisit the rite in Leviticus 14:1-32, because after all, this kind of thing just doesn’t happen.

Go back to Leviticus 14. You can see that it has Jesus written all over it. The symbolisms of salvation are deep and wonderful. If you want to follow up on it, Enduring Word gives a good account on what’s going on: The important lesson from the gospel is that this leprous man, like all the other people healed by Jesus, is a picture of the spiritual healing from sin that a person can obtain through Christ. Miracles are not performed for their own sake. Jesus does not do tricks! They always have a deeper meaning. The physical signs point to a deeper need: salvation of a lost soul. Have you come to the Lord for your healing yet?

Our reading in Psalm 32:1-5;11 says it so well:

Blessed is the one
    whose transgressions are forgiven,
    whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one
    whose sin the Lord does not count against them
    and in whose spirit is no deceit.

When I kept silent,
    my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
    your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
    as in the heat of summer.[b]

Then I acknowledged my sin to you
    and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
    my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
    the guilt of my sin.

11 Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you are righteous;
    sing, all you who are upright in heart!

Come to Christ and by faith in His sacrifice. Be healed from sin in your inner man.

Once forgiven, our reading in 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1 encourages us to a new life priority. Whatever we do, wherever we go: live to the glory of God. Look out for others. Tell them the Good News of salvation. Be imitators of Christ! Easier said than done.  Going back to our formerly leprous man in the gospel, Jesus told him to keep quiet about his miracle; he didn’t. Hey, I can understand it was a hard call. Besides the obvious questions that the priest was bound to ask, his joy and exhilaration must have been uncontainable. But the man takes it a little too far when he broadcasts his healing to all and everyone he sees. Jesus was famous! It got to the point where our Lord couldn’t even go into town for a burger without getting thronged. Jesus and company had to camp out in the wilderness…and the crowds kept coming. Not that He didn’t know the guy would do that. God never says, “Didn’t see that coming!” But the Lord says things for a reason, even if we think they are unreasonable, and the cause of Christ suffers through our disobedience.

Lesson for today: Sin is an ugly debilitating condition ultimately leading to the death of your soul in the Lake of Fire. Come to Jesus and be cleansed from it. Escape your fate and be reborn to a new life. Live your new healed life to God’s glory and for goodness sake, listen to Him!

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